Health & Medicine

Kaiser health workers rally this week in Sacramento region as part of statewide push

Kaiser Permanente’s south Sacramento hospital.
Kaiser Permanente’s south Sacramento hospital. Sacramento Bee file

More than 55,000 union-represented health care workers at Kaiser Permanente are holding rallies around the state through mid-June as their labor contract nears its Sept. 30 expiration date.

Members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers said Kaiser is trying to outsource jobs, even as it sits on a reserve of $31.5 billion. They will do informational picketing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday at Kaiser’s Roseville Medical Center, on Wednesday at its Sacramento Medical Center on Morse Avenue, and on Thursday at its South Sacramento Medical Center on Bruceville Road.

“Although Kaiser Permanente is a ‘non-profit’ hospital system, too often it acts like a ‘for-profit’ corporation that leaves behind the values, community relationships and connection to patients and healthcare workers that made it a success,” said Verna Hampton, an employee at Kaiser West Los Angeles. “We are determined to get Kaiser back on track as the provider that communities enthusiastically call their own, patients believe offers the best care, and employees are proud to work for.”

John Nelson, Kaiser’s vice president of communications, said that the ranks of SEIU-UHW have grown by more than 8,000 since 2015 and that Kaiser has added more than 13,000 jobs in California during that period. In addition, he said, all the nonprofit organization’s revenues go into providing high-quality, affordable health care and to improving the health of members and their communities, not to earn a profit or pay shareholders.

“Kaiser Permanente, like other health plans, maintains financial reserves to cover our obligations if something unexpected were to occur or if regular business was interrupted,” Nelson said. “Our reserves also support our hospitals, medical offices, employee benefits (including pensions), and other elements of our integrated model of care that other health plans do not have.”

In a news release, SEIU-UHW questioned why Kaiser wants to outsource jobs to companies that pay less and offer fewer benefits when its reserves total more than the combined city budgets for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose.

SEIU-UHW represents Kaiser employees who work in fields such as respiratory care, dietary treatment, environmental services and nursing. The union represents roughly 6,000 at the three local facilities where rallies will occur.

The rallies began at Kaiser’s Fresno Medical Center on Thursday and will end June 12 at the company’s Santa Clara Medical Center. Elsewhere in the Central Valley, rallies will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday in Manteca, Modesto and Stockton.

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